Unions weigh U contract offer

Angela Gray

After University officials’ latest contract proposal, American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union members walked away from the negotiation table without dessert and instead a wage freeze.

On Oct. 5, the University offered a formal proposal of a 2 percent general wage adjustment for both years of union members’ contracts.

This general wage adjustment would not apply to current contract.

Phyllis Walker, president of AFSCME Local 3800, said the applied wage increase depends on when an agreement is reached.

“It could be months until we reach an agreement, which means we (union members) lose money,” Walker said.

Candace Lund, president of the technical union Local 3937, said that under normal conditions, a settlement would apply the wage increase for the entire fiscal year, or 12 months, but in this case, the increase will take effect once the contract is signed.

“Whatever wage increase we settle on, it won’t take effect until union members sign on the dotted line,” Lund said.

The University administration and AFSCME have been negotiating since July.

AFSCME union members have proposed a 3 percent increase for 2005, Lund said.

Lori Vicich, communications director for the Office of Human Resources, said University officials are optimistic.

“We are remaining pretty hopeful for a settlement, but there is still a sizable difference between the two wage proposals,” she said.

Jessica Sundin, a clerical staff member, said she was angry when she heard about the University proposal, calling it “unacceptable.”

She said the University justifies rejecting the 3 percent wage increase because of the need for money to compete in the marketplace for top faculty members.

“The University needs to start with being fair, then competitive,” Sundin said.

Walker said she hopes the University “wakes up and brings real money to the table.”

“We had to file an unfair labor practice lawsuit against the ‘U’ just to get them to the negotiating table,” Walker said.

Walker said the 2 percent wage increase proposal is an insult.

“Every job is critical, and there is dignity in each of those jobs,” she said.

Lund said a 2 percent wage increase is not comparable to other University employee overall pay.

“If you were to give higher paid administrators the same percentage of an increase, it would amount to more than if you were to apply it to our salaries,” Lund said.

Lund said she hoped for a settlement in the near future.

She said the unions are willing to continue negotiating until they receive what they deserve or the mediator decides both the University and the unions cannot move any further.

If the mediator decides to stop the back-and-forth negotiations, the unions are left with what the University offers, Lund said.

“If union members do not approve of the leftover offer, there is no walking from the table to negotiate Ö the last final vote is a vote for a strike.”